Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Release Date: 4th Novmber 1994
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Steph Lady & Frank Darabont
Producer: Francis Ford Coppola, James V. Hart & John Veitch
Executive Producer: Fred Fuchs

Runtime: 2hrs 3mins
Language: English

Information

When shown the script, Helena’s mother advised her to reject the role.

Synopsis

The film begins in the year 1794. Captain Robert Walton leads a daring expedition to reach the North Pole. While their ship is trapped in the ice of the Arctic Sea, Walton and his men discover a man travelling across the Arctic on his own. In the distance, a loud moaning can be heard. When the man sees how obsessed Walton is with reaching the North Pole he asks, “Do you share my madness?” The man then reveals that his name is Victor Frankenstein and begins his tale.

The film flashes back to Victor’s childhood in Geneva as the son of the wealthy Baron and Caroline Frankenstein. At one point in his childhood Victor’s parents adopted Elizabeth, who would become the love of Victor’s life.

Years later Victor’s mother dies giving birth to his brother William. Sometime before going off to the university at Ingolstadt, a grief-stricken Victor vows on his mother’s grave that he will find a way to conquer death. On the night of his graduation Victor and Elizabeth promised to wed when Victor returns from his studies.

At university, Victor’s previous studies with the works of alchemists such as Paracelsus, Albertus Magnus, and Cornelius Agrippa make him unpopular with certain professors. However he finds a friend in Henry Clerval and a mentor in Professor Waldman. Victor comes to believe that the only way to cheat death is to create life. At this point Professor Waldman tells Victor not to follow through with his theory; he tested it once, but he ended his experiments because they resulted in an “abomination.”

While performing vaccinations, Professor Waldman is murdered by a patient who thinks the doctors are trying to poison him. After Waldman was buried, Victor breaks into Waldman’s laboratory, takes Waldman’s notes on the experiments, and starts using them to work on his own creation.

Victor spends months in his apartment working on creating a living, breathing creature using the body of the murderer, giving it Waldman’s brain, giving it dead body parts from various sources, including the body of the murderer, Waldman’s own brain, a new leg in place of the missing one and a new eye to replace the damaged one, he begins piecing a creature together. Victor is so obsessed with his work that not even a cholera outbreak tears him from it. Late one night, Victor finally gives his creation life, but he recoils from it in horror and renounces his experiments.

That night, the creature escapes Victor’s apartment, running off to the wilderness. He spends months hiding in the woods, living in an unwitting family’s barn. As time progresses, the creature learns to read and speak. Eventually the creature tries to win the family’s love, but his efforts are in vain. Through the journal the creature finds in the coat that he took from Victor’s apartment he learns of the circumstances of his creation and that Victor Frankenstein is responsible. He then burns down the family’s abandoned cottage and heads to Geneva, vowing revenge on his creator. Victor, who believes his creation destroyed, returns to Geneva with the intent of marrying Elizabeth. He finds there that his little brother William has been murdered. Justine Moritz, a servant of the Frankenstein household, is framed for the crime and hanged. That night Victor is approached by his creation, who tells him to meet him on the mountain. Realizing that the creature murdered his brother, Victor goes with the intent of destroying his creation, but is no match for his enhanced speed and strength. The creature asks who the people were that Victor used to build him. Victor replies that they were merely raw materials, but the creature contradicts that he knew how to read, speak and play the recorder, but he didn’t learn how to, he remembered how.

Rather than killing his creator, the creature insists that Victor make a bride for him. If he does this, then he promises to quit humanity forever with Victor never having to see him again. To ensure the safety of the rest of his family, Victor begins gathering the tools he used to create life, but when the creature insists he use Justine’s body to make the bride, Victor breaks his promise. Enraged, the creature once more vows revenge, saying, “If you deny me my wedding night, I will be with you on yours!”

Victor and Elizabeth are married. En route to their honeymoon, Victor and Elizabeth are flanked by body guards. Meanwhile Victor’s father dies while the creature watches over him. That night Victor takes every precaution to defend his new family, but the creature finds them anyway and gains access to Elizabeth’s room. He uses his hand to prevent her crying out, then despite her pleas he kills her by ripping out her heart as Victor searches the house, just before Victor comes back to find the monster holding Elizabeth’s heart saying, “I keep my promises!” He tosses Elizabeth’s body off the bed; her head slams into a nearby table, and her hair is set aflame by candles there. The creature flees out the window amidst gunfire. Victor frantically extinguishes the fire.

Victor races home to bring Elizabeth back to life. Repulsed by what he intends to do, Henry tries to stop him. Victor argues that his father would have done the same for his mother. After Henry tells him that Baron Frankenstein is dead, Victor believes there is nothing left to lose. “Nothing but your soul,” Henry replies. Once he stitches Elizabeth back together using parts from Justine’s body, Elizabeth awakes. Victor has a short lived joy having her come back to life. The monster arrives and is expecting his repayment. Victor and the monster then fight for her affections, but are cut short by Elizabeth realizing her hideous form and burning the mansion to the ground.

The story returns to the Arctic Circle. Victor tells Walton that he has been pursuing his creation for months with the intent of killing him. Soon after relating his story, Victor succumbs to pneumonia and dies. After a word with his crew, Walton hears a noise coming from the room he left Frankenstein’s body in. There they find the creature weeping over his creator’s dead body. They take Frankenstein’s body and prepare a funeral pyre for him. The ceremony is interrupted when the ice around the ship begins to crack. The creature takes the torch and finishes the ceremony, burning himself alive with his creator’s body. Walton, having seen the result of Frankenstein’s obsession, puts his own aside and orders the ship to return home.

Cast

Robert De Niro…as The Creation
Kenneth Branagh…as Victor Frankenstein
Tom Hulce…as Henry Clerval
Helena Bonham Carter…as Elizabeth Frankenstein
Ian Holm…as Baron Frankenstein
John Cleese…as Professor Waldman
Aidan Quinn…as Captain Robert Walton
Trevyn McDowell…as Justine Moritz
Celia Imrie…as Mrs. Moritz
Cherie Lunghi…as Caroline Frankenstein
Ryan Smith…as William Frankenstein

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Awards

Nominated
1994: Saturn Award for Best Actress